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City councilmembers now have the legal advice they need to move ahead with a medical marijuana ordinance.

Last week, the city attorney's office issued a report to council and the mayor answering in detail many of their questions from previous meetings.

Among the questions were whether patients can score medicine from dedicated vending machines, if the city can charge fees and enact taxes beyond recovering costs for permits and staff time, whether the city can implement their own medical marijuana card program, and if limits can be placed on the number of dispensaries in any given council district.

During the course of the past year, questions have arisen regarding the legality of marijuana vending machines. Companies that manufacture the machines hired lobbyists to persuade elected officials to ban certain types and allow others. One company, Medbox, hired Southwest Strategies, the same firm representing shipbuilders in their fight against the community-plan update in Barrio Logan. The decision paid off, at least for a moment.

In June 2013, as reported by the Reader's Dave Rice, Medbox CEO Dr. Bruce Bedrick announced that talks had gone in their favor.

"[T]he proposed legislation would permit Medbox systems and prohibit other types of ‘vending’ units that dispense medical marijuana…. We had a productive discussion with city leaders and were able to demonstrate that the Medbox system is not a vending machine, but a behind-the-counter compliance tool,” said Bedrick.

And while Medbox's future in San Diego is unclear, what is clear is that the city has legal footing to ban other vending machines.

"Given that the Supreme Court upheld Riverside’s dispensary ban, a ban on a machine that distributes marijuana through a presumably retail model such as a vending machine will likely be upheld as an appropriate exercise of the City’s police power," reads the February 10 report.

Another question was whether the city can tack on extra fees or taxes beyond what would be needed to pay for administrative costs. Former mayor Bob Filner led the charge for extra taxes in order to generate revenue. Legally, however, there would be obstacles. According to the report, taxing the medicine must be approved by voters in a citywide vote.

The city can, however, require dispensary owners to pay for a business-tax certificate before opening.

In regard to the city starting their own patient ID card program, attorneys working on the proposal advise against it, saying the state and counties must administer and oversee the card program.

Lastly, the issue of how many dispensaries could open in San Diego… Councilmembers had previously asked whether the city could put a cap on the number of locations dispensing the drug. Attorneys say yes.

"The City may impose a limit on the number of cooperatives allowed to operate in the City of San Diego, either pursuant to a city-wide limit, a Council District-wide limit, or other criteria," reads the report.

In a February 13 press release, interim mayor Todd Gloria assured citizens that dispensaries will not be opening on every street corner.

"The Interim Mayor also dispelled the reports meant to alarm people about the number of dispensaries or collectives that this ordinance would bring to neighborhoods. This ordinance sets the framework...but that doesn’t mean that dispensaries would actually occupy all of those locations.

“Just like with food trucks, I am confident that by providing clear and fair rules of the road, San Diego will be far better off,” said Gloria.

The city council will consider the draft ordinance during a February 25 hearing. If passed, the ordinance will move on to the California Coastal Commission for final approval.

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Comments

Founder Feb. 17, 2014 @ 1:46 p.m.

I think most Readers would agree that there should not be "pot stores" on every corner but left unsaid is the we already have liquor stores on every corner, especially in all the high crime areas of San Diego (like PB, NP and Gaslamp) and the City Council is not the least bit concerned that there is no real limit as to how many will ever be allowed because the CA ABC actually makes its income from these same licensees ans will grant additional licenses after the paperwork is submitted along with a ABC hearing on the matter!

Also conveniently left out of the Pot discussion is its enforcement, which is the cornerstone of any regulatory rule making which will leave these new ordinances without teeth, therefore I wish those that are tasked with trying to enforce any new regulations good luck because again comparing Pot store to alcohol stores, we see that all those with ABC licenses have to really screw up, before anything really happens to them.

I'm afraid that like gun control, those that are already complying with the letter of the law will be the most affected by all these new ordinances, instead of those that are operating illegally, who will continue to make a mockery of the entire ordinances process!

Our State prison system is filled with far too many of those that have been convicted for the sale of small quantities of Pot and each of them is costing US about $60,000 per year. This is yet another reason that any new ordinances should be modeled upon the CA ABC ordinances, since alcohol has already proven itself to be nothing more than another "drug" of choice which has been proven to be far more dangerous than Pot, especially to those that drink and drive!

Now is the time for San Diego's elected Leaders to follow the voters will and make the sale of Pot safe while also making it easy to obtain for those that are now medically qualified to use it. Anything other than that, will be perceived as the City Council and our Mayor elect thumbing their noses at what the voters have already affirmed in previous elections.

Hats off to the San Diego Reader for having the GUTS to actually provide an open forum for this and other important discussions that together affect the quality of life for San Diegans, something that no other media outlet in San Diego offers any longer...

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petezanko Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:46 a.m.

I like how you call the Gaslamp, North Park and Pacific Beach the high-crime areas... You don't get around much, do you?

Wouldn't it be nice if we stopped with the "medically qualified" joke? Doctors that prescribe smoking something -- anything -- should have their licenses revoked. It's a pleasure drug, that's all.

That said, it needs to be decriminalized ASAP. Ridiculous that we sell beer to drunken transients at 8 in the morning but we can't get a little high at 4:20.

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dwbat Feb. 18, 2014 @ 9:18 a.m.

PB is actually No. 1, followed by NP second. But Gaslamp crime is much less than La Jolla! Check the latest neighborhood figures here: http://www.sandiego.gov/police/pdf/2013/201312cumneighbor.pdf

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aardvark Feb. 17, 2014 @ 4:17 p.m.

So what happens if Laura Duffy enforces Federal Law and closes them down (or if there are vending machines, confiscates them)?

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Justin Powell Feb. 17, 2014 @ 5:56 p.m.

I would hope that Prez Barack Obama--who has now said that marijuana is not even as bad as alcohol--will take Scruffy out to the the shed & give her a good whipping if she messes around with the dispensaries again. The only problem: Laura Duffy would probably enjoy her "punishment,"

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